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Unformatted text preview: d mark you, monsieur, my work was interesting work. The most interesting work there is in
the world.' 'Yes?' I said encouragingly. For the moment the spirit of Caroline was strong within me.
'The study of human nature, monsieur!' 'Just so,' I said kindly.
Clearly a retired hairdresser. Who knows the secrets of human nature better than a hairdresser?
'Also, I had a friend - a friend who for many years never left my side. Occasionally of an imbecility to
make one afraid, nevertheless he was very dear to me. Figure to yourself that I miss even his stupidity.
His naivete, his honest outlook, the pleasure of delighting and surprising him by my superior gifts - all
these I miss more than I can tell you.' 'He died?' I asked sympathetically.
'Not so. He lives and flourishes - but on the other side of the world. He is now in the Argentine.' 'In the
Argentine,' I said enviously.
I have always wanted to go to South America. I sighed, and then looked up to find Mr Porrott eyeing me
sympathetically. He seemed an understanding little man.
'Will you go there, yes?' he asked.
I shook my head with a sigh.
'I could have gone,' I said. 'A year ago. But I was foolish and worse than foolish - greedy. I risked the
substance for the shadow.' 'I comprehend,' said Mr Porrott. 'You speculated?' I nodded mournfully, but
in spite of myself I felt secretly entertained. This ridiculous little man was so portentously solemn.
'Not the Porcupine Oilfields?' he asked suddenly.
'I thought of them, as a matter of fact, but in the end I plumped for a gold mine in Western Australia.' My
neighbour was regarding me with a strange expression which I could not fathom. 'It is Fate,' he said at last.
'What is Fate?' I asked irritably.
'That I should live next to a man who seriously considers Porcupine Oilfields, and also West Australian
Tell me, have you also a penchant for auburn hair?' I stared at him open-mouthed, and he burst out
'No, no, it is not the insanity that I suffer from. Make your mind easy. It was a foolish question that I put
to you there, for, you see, my friend of whom I spoke was a young man, a man who thought all women
good, and most of them beautiful. But you are a man of middle age, a doctor, a man who knows the folly
and the vanity of most things in this life of ours. Well, well, we are neighbours. I beg of you to accept and
present to your excellent sister my best marrow.' He stooped, and with a flourish produced an immense
specimen of the tribe, which I duly accepted in the spirit in which it was offered.
'Indeed,' said the little man cheerfully, 'this has not been a wasted morning. I have made the acquaintance
of a man who in some ways resembles my far-off friend. By the way, I should like to ask you a question.
You doubtless know everyone in this tiny village. Who is the young man with the very dark hair and eyes,
and the handsome face. He walks with his head flung back, and an easy smile on his lips?' The
description left me in no doubt.
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